Despite the fact that Bear Stearns had already collapsed, the recession was not even discussed at last May’s Email Insider Summit. This year, the world looks a bit different, and many marketers here are telling me that they’ve had to change their practices significantly in order to adjust to the new reality. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as it seems many of us are more focused on subscriber satisfaction, retention and keeping ISP complaints low.
A panel of smart email marketers on Monday that was moderated by Mediapost editor David Goetzl, highlighted some great strategies that are working for them right now. Bottom line: email is now the rockstar of the marketing team. Bravo! Good for us. Um … uh oh. Now we better perform! I’ve tried to summarize some of the panelists key strategies here.
Brian Jaffe, Director, eCommunications for Nationwide said, “Retention is the new acquisition for us, and email is the primary way to do this.” However, Brian takes very different approaches to the different audiences he serves. For his B2B customers and agents, Nationwide has replaced 90% of their direct mail with email. This is an audience that is hungry for information. For Nationwide’s B2C audience, the use of email is less solid, partly due to channel conflict with agents, but email has risen in importance in how we can communicate and engage.
“As a standalone channel, email is not as interesting,” he says. “It’s much more powerful as an integrated part of a larger marketing program, particularly for communicating with existing customers.”
Retention is harder to measure for Brian because it doesn’t have the simple cause and effect of acquisition campaigns. Retention is over time and through multiple touch points. He’s also focused on taking advantage of the transactional messaging opportunity. ” We look at every touch point, and these transactional messages are important,” he says. “We get open rates of 70%, which clobbers everything we get on marketing messages.”
We want to be more intelligent in all areas, Brian says. “We should be doing this in all economic environments, not just stressed environments.”
John Edwards, Associate Director of Verizon agreed. He says that internally, there is a lot more attention on email as an inexpensive and high return channel. His challenge is to manage this interest and so his team is working on getting the right measurements in place to govern the email flow. “The things that you should do in a down economy are the same things you should have done in a good economy,” he says. “Targeting, testing and dynamic landing pages. Metrics and measurement is how you keep your budget.”
“We doubled our email budget this year and that wasn’t the economy, that was the ability to demonstrate value to the board room,” John says. “My hope is the economy makes us better marketers not more prolific marketers.”
Jackie Zlatanovski, Executive Director of Brand Management for MGM Mirage says the recession took them a bit by surprise. “We thought we were recession proof here in the gaming industry! But now we have occupancy issues,” she said. The MGM brand managers were not prepared to go into this type of acquisition and retention mode.
Given this competitive environment – where the MGM properties like the Bellagio and Mirage compete with each other for rates as well as with other Vegas casino/hotels – the content is all about promotions, she says. “We put our plans for newsletters on the back burner this year. Our emails are all about calendars and rates.”
The content of the messages adjusted, too. The messages used to be, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” Jackie says. Now it’s “Please, please come to Vegas, you deserve a break.” She’s had to focus the content much earlier in the sales cycle.
For all of us, here is our chance to situate email at the center of the digital marketing mix. What’s next? Integrated messaging, deeper and predictive analytics and reaching across borders to synchronize with social marketing.